The webcomics blog about webcomics

How You Say… Ze Accent, She Is Overdone

One of the harder parts of creating a webcomic is actually writing it.

Even comics that are exclusively joke-a-day, like ?, need to be written.

And if you’re doing anything even a little bit more involved than that, you need to create characters. And these characters need to be distinguishable from each other. And so you give them different haircuts (none of them anatomically possible) or different boob sizes (none of them realistic), and they wear different clothes (and never change their clothes).

And then, just because you’re so very very very clever and fun… you decide to give one of them an accent.

And because you’re just such an amazingly original writier, you decide to give this character a French accent. And now your new character says ‘Ze”, and “Mozair” and “non!” and “baguette” and “bagatelle” and “Voulez-vous coucher” …

But, really. You’re not very good at it. And your character is not nearly as cute as you think it is.

So, try again, please. And that character you have, who is always obnoxious to everyone? That guy isn’t funny either. And enough with the bad guys who always sssssss their essess.

And remember the lesson of Lucas, too. That accent you find so hilarious may actually be racist. Oy Vey!

Not to mention it can be hard to figure out what the hell the “foreign” character is saying, even when they’re speaking English.

Jeff, I have to say that I disagree with you on this one. I know tons of people with accents. In today’s globalized future intenet society, most people know between 5-6 people with accents on average, according to recent figures. Should we just overlook these people? Should we shun our European friends? I think America has done enough to hurt world culture without expecting people to surrender their accents as well.

Jeff, if you were going to start a comic strip (which you can’t, by the way, because I told you so), would you have only red-blooded american midwesterners in it? Or would you find a way to portray our foreign friends in a manner which acknowledges their culture but tries not to fall into cliche?

Accents can be very annoying to read indeed, but sometimes they add an unexpected new flavor!

My favorite by far is the Scottish accent used towards the end of this comic episode:

Jon – Of course you disagree with me on this one. You missed my point!

I’m not saying that webcomics should not include people with accents. Some notably good examples are your own Alfred the bartender, and John Allison’s Natalie Durand.

But a character should not be defined as “That guy with the accent”. My illustrative example of Pitr from User Friendly should have made this a bit obvious. Pitr spontaneously acquired an accent. Why? I can only assume that it would make him more distinguishable – yeah, you know he’s that guy in User Friendly who’s really technical and evil. No, not that one. The one with the accent.

Webcomics should include characters of every race, nationality, species there is, and all the ones that there aren’t as well.

But picking one of your characters to randomly have an accent – and then deciding that it’s going to be a French accent (because that’s easy – just replace every ‘the’ with ‘ze’) – is a cheap trick. And new writers ESPECIALLY should watch out for cheap tricks – because it means they aren’t finding the right words to convey what they want to convey.

Also, Liz – Thanks for reminding me of Platinum Grit!

I had a Calculus teacher in high school by the name of Mr. Wells. He was a brilliant man who had scored 1600 on his SATs and who had won on Jeporady! at least once. He had a rump-tickler moustache, spiky blonde hair with a mullet, and wore brown polyester suits with bright yellow ties.

Mr. Wells spoke with a fake German accent. He dropped it for us just once, about a month before we graduated.

For you to say that people do not spontaneously generate an accent is an insult to his honor. I challenge you to a duel.

Ah, but some webcomics have characters with French accents that were deliberately created to make fun of people’s ignorance of French, French accents, and French-speaking people in general (they’re not all just in France).

Frenchy, for instance. He is Belgian, and hates everybody.

Okay. But is Frenchy well done?

I think not.

Also, probably contributing to the problem. Because you’re still using the accent to generate humor.. and it’s just not funny – but people will think it is. And thus you’re helping to perpetuate the cheap trick.

and it’s just not funny – but people will think it is.

wait, what? I mean, I agree, obviously, with the essence of the post – it’s stupid, yes, cheap, yes, juvenile, yes, overdone, yes – but if people find that funny, then they find it funny. They may be stupid for having that opinion, but they’re not wrong about their own opinion (wrong, full stop, may be another matter). If someone really finds a fake russian accent to be the epitome of hilarity, it’s not in any way a ‘trick’. Some people find fake accents funny, and some people find CAD not to be a big stinking heap of depressingly derivative mediocrity. Both those sets of people are retarded, but I’m not entirely sure it’s valid to say ‘hey, you don’t like it really, you just think you do’.

I’m not saying ‘hey, you don’t like it really, you just think you do’.

Or at least, that’s not what I’m trying to say.

What the heck did I mean, anyway?

Also if you think CAD is a big stinking heap of depressingly derivitive mediocrity – you don’t have nearly a broad enough exposure to the low end of the medium. It might, posssibly, be a big stinking heap of depressingly derivitative work. But it’s not mediocre. It’s somewhere above the 75% line.

Yeah, I think it was a semantic issue there, really.

And you’re right, I try to avoid the true trash. But then again, mean is not the same as median.

[…] Good just is. There it is, boiled down to its essence, by a societal outcast guilty of some crime beyond imagining. Get yourself a GS subscription and start reading the other strips of Ed’s worldview (especially the creation myth of the hyena people … it’s brilliant); while you’re at it, notice how well Ed’s speech patterns form an accent that’s not contrived or overblown. Ursula Vernon’s work here is top-notch. You could say that she’s just that good. […]

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